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20 minutes with:
Roger Lindley interviews
Vice president of Caterpillar EAME Distribution
I first met Paolo Fellin in the 1980s when he was beginning his career with Caterpillar at the company's European operations in Geneva, Switzerland and I was beginning life as an Editor.
During the 1980s he was involved in various positions covering sales and marketing, product development and operations in Europe, Africa, Middle East and North America. He then became product manager for Caterpillar's small track hydraulic excavator in Grenoble, France. Over the years, I often interviewed him in different locations or at trade shows.
Bauma 2010 was the first opportunity for me to catch up since he assumed his current position and I became publisher/editor of Contractors World magazines.
"Where, if any, have you seen positive indicators of improvements within the market for Caterpillar in your area of responsibility - Europe, Africa and Middle East?"
"It is interesting to see that it is the emerging markets that are taking the bulk of machines. At this time, there is a significant shift. Whereas traditionally, Europe has accounted for 66% of sales, this is now closer to 50%. Growth is coming from Africa and the Middle East. This shift in the markets raises some challenges for Caterpillar as product specification in some of the countries are less demanding on technology and higher on reliability and service support. We, therefore, have to ensure that our extended supply chain through our dealer network is sufficiently robust."
"To meet different market conditions, Caterpillar will be offering machines more appropriate to the regions. In the past, when the market was smaller, it was possible to adapt main-line machines. Now it is a different scenario. There is already evidence of increasing product differentiation in customer needs. And, to maintain our position we have to meet these demands. This will be seen primarily in engine specifications and in some of the electronic technology that advanced engines enable."
"However, I have to emphasise that in offering region specific machines, we are not offering a sub-standard product. Reliability, productivity and operating efficiency are just as important in African and Middle Eastern countries as they are throughout Europe."
"Does this imply operational changes within your territory?"
"The shape of the company will not change significantly, if at all.
Of course, like every company, we are aware of the economic situation and have had to adjust accordingly."
Western Africa’s first branded Cat Rental Store is now up and running in Burkina Faso by the local Cat dealer Burkina Equipements.
"However, we made the big structural change many years ago when we moved away form being a product focused company to one that was more market/customer focused. "
"Market segmentation has allowed us to put together specialist application teams who understand the specifics of different market sectors - quarrying, demolition, mining, construction, etc. With this structure, each team can take a holistic approach when talking to customers and provide the most efficient solution to specific customer requirements."
"This approach is not without its risks because we are helping in the critical decision making progress but the customer knows that he is getting the best solution."
" So, we have to be much more accountable, and ensure that we deliver. I see this developing further with even more emphasis on customers and market segmentation. And, as I said, we need to ensure that our service and distribution via the dealer network is strong."
[cont . . . ]